Port Stephens, Newcastle, Dungog and Maitland council's no closer to merger outcome

THERE’S speculation the state government won’t announce the outcome of proposed mergers between the likes of Port Stephens and Newcastle until the year’s end.

It’s approaching 12 months since a raft of mergers was proposed and with the subsequent reviews, counter proposals and legal challenges, the cloud of uncertainty hasn’t budged.

The latest theory from Macquarie Street suggests the councils in merger limbo won’t learn their fate until after the November by-election for the seats of Canterbury and Orange – with the National Party at risk of losing the latter.

“I haven’t heard that [theory] talked about,” the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald said.

“But I would like to see it resolved soon.”

The mayor of Port Stephens, Cr Bruce MacKenzie, said he’d recently heard the theory from a past member of the government.

“It makes sense for them to wait,”’ Cr MacKenzie said.

“If they amalgamate Newcastle and Port Stephens before the by-election it’s only going to make the Coalition look worse.

“They’re already on the nose in National Party seats after the greyhound ban.”

An announcement was expected soon after the July federal election.

In the weeks that followed Port Stephens councillors began to speculate, at meeting after meeting, that each time would be the last.

“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” Cr MacKenzie said.

“But it’s business as usual for us and we’ve done some good things at recent meetings.”

At the last meeting the council extended what Cr MacKenzie has called a moratorium on permissions to cut down dangerous trees.

“I’ve still getting congratulated on that,” he said.

“People are dead set scared of some of these trees are going to fall on them in the night.”

Does Mr MacDonald believe the ceasefire is a sign the government has faith in Port Stephens Council?

“All these councils, they’re just getting on with it,” he said.

“Maitland, Port Stephens - good councils - they’re all pretty good.” 

Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie

Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie

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